This is fiction, unless it isn't. This isn't a symbolic mirror-game, unless it is: "There was once, in the country of Alifbay, a sad city, the saddest of cities, a city so ruinously sad that it had forgotten its name. It stood by a mournful sea full of glumfish, which were so miserable to eat that they made people belch with melancholy even though the skies were blue.
"In the north of the sad city stood mighty factories in which (so I'm told) sadness was actually manufactured, packaged and sent all over the world, which never seemed to get enough of it. Black smoke poured out of the chimneys of the sadness factories and hung over the city like bad news."
Sad cities abound. So does bad news, so do glumfish, so do locked-up editors, so does muted speech, so do miscarried stories, so does fear, paranoia, silent menace, invisible stranglers. But while Salman Rushdie (dear Salman, I'm supremely annoyed by your recent memoir, but that's another story) at least had the power of metaphor to tell his story, a story in disguise, a story of sugar-coated poison pills, in the above excerpt from his children's book Haroun and the Sea of Stories, written during the years facing the guillotine following the Iranian fatwa - in short, while Rushdie can substitute reality with allegories, an ancient literary device since the time of the Greeks, the saddest city that should not be named is perhaps the one in which even metaphors and analogies are at risk of being banned and its writers (or editors, appearing in court in shackles, like convicted murderers) excessively punished. Ten years, to be precise, for printing a metaphor.
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